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Malta talks for Libya’s eastern politicians

Parliament in the country’s east has failed to support the UN-installed Presidency Council

UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler.

UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler.

Libyan politicians from the country’s east were on a diplomatic offensive yesterday as they met UN chief peace negotiator Martin Kobler in Malta.

Ali Al-Gatrani led a small delegation from the Tobruk-based House of Representatives for talks with Mr Kobler.

The UN representative was refused landing in Tobruk in Libya’s east two days ago.

Mr Al-Gatrani is boycotting the UN-installed Presidency Council of which he forms part of. The parliament in the country’s east has failed to support the Presidency Council, denying it the legitimacy it requires on the ground.

While in Malta, Mr Al-Gatrani also met Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, a spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister confirmed.

Mr Al-Gatrani is an ally of general Khalifa Haftar who leads the Libyan National Army and has been waging war in the east against Islamic extremists.

General Haftar’s role in a united Libya remains a source of contention. He does not see eye to eye with the moderate Islamist brigades from Misurata, who are aligned with the Tripoli based administration.

General Haftar sparked controversy last week when he was taken aboard the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kusnetsof that passed off Libya’s eastern coast. The move was interpreted as a show of Russian support for the General. However, Russia has shown no sign of reneging on its commitment to support the UN-brokered deal.

The Libya Herald has reported that Mr Al-Gatrani asked Mr Kobler to support a return to the fourth draft of the Libyan Political Agreement. This would keep key appointments, including top military commanders, in the hands of parliament, rather than with the Presidency Council as now proposed.

Mr Kobler later tweeted that the Libyan Political Agreement brokered by the UN in 2015 and which installed Libya’s third government – which is also the one recognised internationally – as the only basis for discussions that are currently going on between different factions.

At the start of Malta’s EU presidency, Dr Muscat has said the country intends putting the crisis in Libya on the European agenda.

Fact check

What is the Libya Political Agreement?

It was a UN-brokered deal to create a government in Libya representative of the various factions. The agreement created the Presidency Council led by Faiez Serraj.

Why does Libya have three governments?

Prior to the LPA coming into force the country was split between the internationally-recognised government and parliament based in Tobruk in the east and the Islamic-leaning Tripoli-based administration. The UN imposed government was meant to replace the other two but it enjoys no power on the ground to enforce decisions. Libya remains a divided country after the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Who is Khalifa Haftar?

He was an ally of Muammar Gaddafi when the dictator seized power from King Idris in 1969. For two decades Haftar led the Libyan army until he was disowned by Gaddafi after the failed war with Chad in 1987. Haftar eloped to the US but returned to Libya in 2011 and served as a focal point for rebel forces that toppled Gaddafi.

Three years later he emerged as the head of the Libyan National Army to wage war against Islamic radicals taking root in the country’s east. His political ambitions remain obscure but his allegiance is to the House of Representatives based in Tobruk. The support he enjoys in the east, especially Benghazi, is not reflected in other parts of the country where he is viewed as a remnant of the Gaddafi regime.

 

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